The House of Six Doors Referenced in Island Bodies by Dr. R. King


In her recently published book Island Bodies: Transgressive Sexualities in the Caribbean Imagination,
Dr. Rosamond S. King references The House of Six Doors in “Force-Ripe” (Chapter 4) on Caribbean Women’s Sexual Agency. Dr. King’s work is an important look at sexuality within the context of the Caribbean culture, both imagined, as well as the actual, often contradictory expression. I have quoted paragraphs from her section on The House of Six Doors. I appreciate Dr. King’s keen observation of the dynamic between the main characters, and how their choices related to sexual expression informs their self image and growth.

From a Somatic Depth Psychological perspective Dr. King’s work brings to light the cultural dissonance between the unconscious bodily instincts, and the conscious cultural constraints. Somatic Depth Psychology recognizes that the body, or soma holds information that is unconscious, but has great influence on the decisions an individual makes. Dr King’s analysis of the characters is valuable in informing the psyche-soma connection. 

From chapter four of Island Bodies: 
Lucy and Heremakhonon are coming of age novels by two of the most revered living Caribbean women writers, Jamaica Kincaid and Maryse Conde, respectively. Both books are considered classics. The third novel examined here, The House of Six Doors by Patricia Selbert, is a valuable but virtually unknown book from the Dutch Caribbean diaspora. All three novels are explicit about the authors’ opinions of the gendered moral expectations of their novels’ middle class or aspiring middle-class Caribbean communities. p.123,124

In 1972, sisters Serena and Hendrika move away from Curacao and the stability of their grandmother to the United States with their mother, Gabriela, a little money and no preparation for their new life in a new country, a different language, a racial system that classifies their light skin and white or Latin, depending on what language they are speaking. The mother’s plan is that she will work as a nurse while her daughters become movie stars. Although they are old enough to see the problems with her plan, the sisters stay quiet, having witnessed the mother’s severe mood swings and multiple suicide attempts when she was contradicted or when events did not go her way. Each daughter claims sexual agency in ways that have significant but very different ramifications for their bildung, their formation into mature adults.

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